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New $31M Tucson Senior Community Goes Healthy, Healing and Green

By Eric Jay Toll for The Arizona Builder’s Exchange

Mix concrete, organic gardens, a world-renowned UofA doctor and the Arizona Center on Aging in you have a new standard for senior communities. Watermark Retirement Communities is gearing up to develop its newly acquired River Road property, Tucson, for a senior housing community on the nearly eight acre site. Hacienda at the River is  a new concept in late-life residency.

RTKL Associates, Los Angeles, and Indevco Architecture, Tucson, are teaming for design of the Mission Revival complex terraced on the banks of the Rillito River. Watermark is negotiating with an unnamed general contractor for the late 2013 start. Watermark anticipates the project will cost in excess of $31M. The campus will include assisted living, long-term care, short-term rehab, and hospice and Alzheimer care centers.

The overall design objective is to de-institutionalize the senior living environment. The specialty centers are designed as single family homes. The more intensive care and rehabilitation is provided in a two-story building with the appearance of a boutique hotel.

Green building design, including water harvesting and gray water systems are at included in the project design as part of its planned application for LEED certification. Other energy and water-saving principles are being incorporated into the architecture. While the assisted living center serves residents capable of generally caring for themselves, the included rehabilitation and specialty care centers are designed as parts of the whole project—rather than satellites or add-on facilities.

Integrated with the design is a comprehensive lifestyle community. Watermark founders David Barnes and David Freshwater are partnering with University of Arizona professor and internationally-recognized nutrition expert Andrew Weil, MD to develop an organic garden and orchard as an onsite food source. Weil will establish the community’s culinary principles for nutrition and drive the menu for the residents’ meals in addition to an integrated restaurant serving guests and families.

Facility amenities and services are interlaced into the community design with consultants Mindy Fain, MD, and Janko Nikolich-Zugich, MD, PhD, the co-directors of the Arizona Center on Aging. The physician-Watermark partnerships will integrate team-based interdisciplinary healthcare and advances in geriatric research. An oingoing relationship with UA will connect services with building and site design, the features available to residents and the overall standards of service and care.

Photo Credit: Courtesy of RTKL Associates

Site design incorporates not only the organic garden and orchard, but a permanent facility for equine therapy created by Barbara K. Rector, MA, CEIP, co-founder of Therapeutic Riding of Tucson and Adventures in Awareness. This is believed to be the first integration of equine therapy into an assisted living community.

Watermark Retirement Communities purchased the 7.9 acre site, 2720 E. River Rd., Tucson, for $2.6M ($325K/acre) from Gateway Hacienda. The two parties represented themselves in the deal.